Vadim Nemkov knocks out Ryan Bader to become Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion

SAITAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 29: Vadim Nemkov of Russia of reacts after defeating Goran Reljic of Croatia in ther bout Rizin Fighting GP Tournament during the Rizin Saraba Fiesta at Saitama Super Arena on December 29, 2015 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Bellator 244 featured the return of double champion, Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC). He returned to the light heavyweight division for the first time in almost three years to defend his title against Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Early on, it appeared that Bader was really struggling to deal with the speed of Nemkov. Bader was clearly used to the speed of the heavyweights. In the second round, Nemkov landed a massive head kick that spelled the end of Bader’s title reign.

Bellator’s New Champion

The win tonight was Nemkov’s seventh straight victory. He’s 5-0 since joining Bellator back in 2017. Only one of his Bellator fights have gone to the scorecards.

Nemkov just turned 28 years old, and it’s clear that he could become a new face for Bellator. He’s exciting to watch, very dynamic on his feet, and he’s got a great killer instinct. He trains under the great Fedor Emelianenko.

After this victory, Nemkov might be taking on for UFC top contender Corey Anderson in his first title defense. Anderson recently just signed with Bellator after asking for his release. That should make for an excellent matchup. Nemkov really looks like he can become a star for Bellator. I’m excited to watch his career progress.

For Bader, he’s still the Bellator heavyweight champion. I wondered how this cut back to 205 would impact his performance tonight. It was clear from the start that he wasn’t comfortable in there. I think tonight was the last time you’ll ever see Ryan Bader at light heavyweight.

There are plenty of exciting options for Bader in the Bellator heavyweight division. He could always run things back with Cheick Kongo after the way their last fight ended. The eye poke robbed fans of a really good fight. Bader is not done, but it’s clear he’s not at his best in the light heavyweight division.